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Atari Meets the Force - The Atari Times

Atari Meets the Force

Atari and the Star Wars Games
by Gregory D. George

May 15, 2002
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...

Those immortal words from George Lucas' space epic could easily be applied to Atari and it's users these days. It was a long time ago when Atari was popular. Mention Atari and most people will think you are from a far off galaxy!

But I remember those times long ago when there were Star Wars games for the Atari. And no self-respecting gamer would ever forget the three Star Wars arcade games, which have become classics in their own right. (Just how many times have you played a "down the trench" type game?)

The original Star Wars game was a true classic. This game included three scenes from the final battle of the movie, color vector graphics, and the first use of sampled sound in a video game. "Use the force, Luke!" Ben would say as you get attacked by dozens of fireballs.

The next game in the series, The Empire Strikes Back, was a conversion kit for the original. Simply change a few chips and a few of the panel graphics, and vioila! A new game! This time, you travel from Hoth in your Snowspeeder battling probots, AT-STs, and the dreaded AT-AT Imperal Walkers. Afterwards, you take the helm of the Millennium Falcon trying to escape Darth Vader's minions and the dreaded asteroid field. While nothing can be as satisfying as blowing up the Death Star in the original Star Wars game, stopping the onslaught of AT-AT's is a great deal of fun.

The final Star Wars arcade game from Atari, Return of the Jedi, departs significantly from the original two opting to use raster instead of vector graphics.The game starts out with the exciting speeder bike chase through the forest of Endor where you must blast the Biker Scouts while avoiding the deadly Ewok traps. Aft wards, you pilot the Millennium Falcon through the narrow chasm of the Death Star to destroy the main reactor. Later levels also include piloting a scout walker as Chewie while avoiding more Ewok traps.

Return of the Jedi also features a rather disorienting way of switching scenes quickly between the scout walker level and the Death Star level. I have yet to see another game that does this.

In addition to the arcade games, Atari systems were graced with several Star Wars games for their home. The most popular and well known would be Parker Brothers 2600 rendition of The Empire Strikes Back.

In this game, you pilot a snowspeeder trying to defeat the imperial AT-AT walkers. The only way to bring them down is to shoot them 42 times or hit them in the "sweet spot" that appears somewhere on the body of the beast. A never-ending supply of walkers will prevent you from winning the game, just like in the movie.

Other 2600 Star Wars games include the pathetic conversion of Star Wars: The Arcade Game, the oddly interesting Jedi Arena, and the Return of the Jedi inspired Death Star Battle.

In addition to these games, Parker Brothers was working on two "Revenge" of the Jedi games for the 2600. Ewok Adventure and one based on the Jabba the Hutt sequence.

The 5200 would receive two 2600 conversions of the Parker Brothers Star Wars games: The Arcade Game, and Death Star Battle. While the graphics for The Arcade Game are somewhat more like the arcade version, the gameplay for it and Death Star Battle are identical to the original 2600 games.

The Atari computer systems also received conversions of these games from Parker Brothers. But it was several years until the arcade perfect Atari ST version of Star Wars Arcade would allow the true experience at home.

So enjoy your fancy, movie-quality games on your next gen systems! When those games are long forgotten, I'll still be playing the greatest Star Wars games of all time, which are ATARI exclusives!

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